Bloomsbury is for letters and learning, for University and Museum, but a convenient starting point is the big underground junction of Hoi born Station, that ejects you up its bleak two tiered escalators into the junction of High Holborn with Kingsway (running south to Aldwych) and Southampton Row, and a prospect in the mam of big modern commercial blocks amongst hurrying traflic of, m companion, small modern commercial people. But if you go north, up Southampton Row, you will come on your left to an odd architectural folly of 1905. Sicilian Avenue, with colonn.idcs, tubbed bay trees and little shops (some for antiques) suggesting a change in tempo, even uncommercial dalliance; this brings you through into Vernon Way, which leads into Bloomsbury Way, and opposite you on the other side of the road, Bloomsbury Square. Though the buildings about this arc almost all recent and commercial, the square’s garden is still there under its big plane trees, with scats, and here was the beginning of modem Bloomsbury.
The name has a certain magic fall, as if of a settling of spent but still fragrant petals, or of russet leaves, on to damp earth (and autumn is indeed the true time to walk Bloomsbury, when the thinning trees unveil the clear elegance of the remaining old architecture of its squares). But the borough of Blemonde, of which it is a corruption, was made over perhaps by William the Conqueror to his vassal Baron Blemonde, and Bloomsbury as such begins only when the Earl of Southampton decided to lay out a square south of his house (long demolished), where you now are, about 1660. John Evelyn came to dinner in 1665, and approved“a noble Square or Piazza, a little townc.” He also approved the “good aire”; to the north was the open country.
The little town began to grow; the Duke of Montague built a lavish house site of the present Tavistock, Bedford, Woburn still label the hfpn to devdop sutudons of Bloomsbury was well settled in the Bnush Museum, begun ia .753, and rehoused in its present carapace in 1823. The second, to the north, London University, first in the guise ot the discreet and elegant University College, began in .897 e north end of Gower Street. But the area was still mainly residential; for lawyers (so handy for the Inns of Court just to the east) andfor scholars and writers about their honeycomb Museum. From about 1906, a concentrated and brilliant circle of writers and artists first took their name from Bloomsbury and in due course returned it, enhanced, to the district.
“Bloomsbury,” as epithet and at first in mockerywas applied to a group of whom the most famous were to be the historian Lytton Strachcy, the critics Clive Bell and Roger Fry, novelists Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. As epithet it implied a somewhat precious mixture of highbrow, arty remoteness from life, of Bohemianism a little dusty, though this did them less than justice.